488: Congee / Jook

Molly 0:04

I'm Molly.

Matthew Amster-Burton 0:05

And I'm Matthew.

Molly 0:06

And this is spilled milk, the show where we cook something delicious. Eat it all, and you can't have any.

Matthew Amster-Burton 0:11

And today we're talking about congee.

Molly 0:13

That's right. And we have a special guest.

Matthew Amster-Burton 0:15

I'm excited. Yes. congee is also called joke in, in Cantonese, it's also called a kaiju. In, in Japanese and other things in other East Asian languages, because it is a rice porridge dish that is popular throughout East Asia.

Molly 0:30

I am so excited to be talking about this. And I'm kind of stunned that it's taken us this long.

Matthew Amster-Burton 0:34

Yes. I mean, we do say that every time but yeah, that's true.

Molly 0:37

That's true.

Matthew Amster-Burton 0:38

Oh, wait, I was gonna say as we begin on memory lane, but we have to remind people that our live show is next week.

Molly 0:44

It's a week from from today, if you're listening on on Thursday, May 6, we got a live show a week from today. That's Thursday, May 13.

Matthew Amster-Burton 0:54

At 6pm it's totally free. It's online, go to bit dot L y slash build milk live 21 because you do need to register in order to attend the live show. And it is a lightning round episode, which means we need lots of topics. So send them to producer Abbey by emailing topics at spilled milk podcast.com. One listener sent a topic directly to me and and I was like, What? I didn't I didn't even understand what was going on. And I think I made them feel bad. But I didn't mean to.

Molly 1:26

I accidentally did that to a student of mine a couple of weeks ago who registered through like an outside organization. Okay, emailed me, I think thinking that I would know who they were anyway. I'm sorry. student who I haven't yet. Yeah,

Matthew Amster-Burton 1:39

we have a lot of apologizing to do. So let's get back to the episode.

Molly 1:42

Great. Okay. All right. So today, we are talking about congee. And I, I'm here for it. I mean, evidently, I'm here in my closet for it.

Matthew Amster-Burton 1:50

That's right. So my content Memory Lane, like the thing that I thought of this, this is a dish that I haven't had very often I want to talk about that with with our guests who spoiler alert is going to be cookbook author and magazine editor Hetty McKinnon But I think it is a dish that that kind of exists in a context like you know, within the cultures where it's enjoyed, and like hasn't yet come along with other dishes from those cultures across the world as much as like stir fry dishes, or braised dishes or fried dishes. Because it is, you know, it's something that's often a breakfast dish, it's something you often eat, like when you're not feeling well. And it's just kind of like soft and comforting. And so it's it's generally not billed as like, you know, this is this is gonna be like a you know, you know, hit you in the mouth with flavor kind of dish, it serves a different function most of the time. So what I remember my memory lane is a few years ago, when I was spending a week in Hong Kong with teenager the show December was not yet a teenager we'd been eating in in Hong Kong for a few days. And like I got to a point where I was like, kind of like homesick and like you know, you know, cranky single parenting for a few days. And I was like, I just want I want breakfast and like I'm sort of tired of going out to eat and I just want something super like warm and comforting. And so we went to a place around the corner and I had congee for breakfast that I think just had like some mushrooms and scallions and and soy sauce that I drizzled on and I burned my mouth on it. It's usually served super hot. But I remember really well Exactly. This was exactly what I needed.

Molly 3:31

And then did you stop being a cranky single parent? Did you meet someone that day and stop being single? Is that what happened?

Matthew Amster-Burton 3:37

Yes, that was we had a kind of it was a candy meet cute. And yeah, there's like a little little whirlwind romance. Rush. Oh boy for the show. Laurie doesn't listen to this.

Molly 3:50

Okay, well, Matthew, I daresay I think I've eaten even less congee than you have not by my own choice. You know, I would

Matthew Amster-Burton 3:58

like to eat more so much in preventing

Molly 4:00

you from eating it. No. The first time I remember having congee was actually very recently. I think it was in 2016. I was in a town just outside of Toronto for a couple weeks. I was teaching writing there. And I had a weekend off and I went into Toronto and someone who I knew through Instagram but had never met Emma waverman. Shout out to Emma waverman who is a food writer. I think she's also on TV in Toronto. Anyway, she invited me to stay at her house. And her mother Lucy waverman is like a very well known food writer for a long time now interval that's cool. And anyway, so these two generations of waiver mins Lucy and Emma took me out for dimsum in Toronto. Oh my god, I will for one thing, even though my dad's from Toronto, I've spent so little time there. And I

Matthew Amster-Burton 4:53

love Toronto. It's so great. Yeah.

Molly 4:55

Oh my god. Anyway, we went to this place that's sort of their usual dimsum spot. And I was happy to have them do all the ordering. I distinctly remember I think the thing I remember most vividly from that morning was the congee which I of course, spooned some chili oil into Oh, yeah. And oh my god, it was just so good. It was also like November, so it was really cold outside. Oh, my God, it was delicious.

Matthew Amster-Burton 5:22

Do you remember like, what other flavorings it had? You know?

Molly 5:26

I don't I don't. I really don't. I think that there was meat in it of some sort. I just remember being I remember feeling so cared for honestly. Yeah. Yeah. You know, being away from home for two weeks in the winter. Yeah, it was delightful. Oh, my God. I don't know why I didn't like come home and learn how to make it immediately.

Matthew Amster-Burton 5:48

Yeah, it's not hard to make.

Molly 5:50

No. And we're gonna talk more about that today. Absolutely.

Matthew Amster-Burton 5:53

So let's talk about the word a little bit because I want to ask our guests about this for sure. Because I feel like the word congee it has kind of a kind of a ring to it that I don't like, but I don't know if that's something that I'm bringing to it or if the word is like sort of falling out of favor. Interesting. Okay. Like it comes from from Tommy Oh, via Portuguese. But like, more often, like when I hear writers?

Molly 6:19

Yeah, it comes from Tommy. Oh,

Matthew Amster-Burton 6:21

yes. So it itself has kind of a wild history. I didn't want to get like too into the etymology segment this week.

Molly 6:30

You mean you're not going to be Mr. Ed. demolish it? Right, right. Oh, yes. The horse

Matthew Amster-Burton 6:35

you forgot. I forgot it was a horse that teaches the word origins.

Molly 6:40

Anyway, no, no, I get it. I mean, I was very surprised to see here on the agenda that it's from Tom meal, because I don't know, I just thought that it was going to be from Cantonese or I don't know,

Matthew Amster-Burton 6:53

right? No, no, that would that would totally make sense. The reason I'm not sure about, like, where the word stands now, like where it's going is because it's kind of an outsider word for this dish. It's not it's not a native language word. Okay. You know, so in Cantonese, and then also in Korean, it's called jook, which I'm probably getting the tone wrong, because Chinese is tonal. It's also can be called Joel in, in Chinese. Okay, the Chinese character from it, I think I'm going to try and find a way to put this in the in the episode description. It has a really striking Chinese character, that sort of like the character for rice between the two of the character for bow and arrow.

Molly 7:35

Oh, wow. That's what it is.

Matthew Amster-Burton 7:37

Yeah, that the bow and arrow part i don't i don't think has has like a semantic meaning. It's just for to indicate the how it's pronounced. But like, you know, you'll see a coffee shop and it'll have this character like a neon in the window. And I my sense is that even if you don't read Chinese characters, this would be a character that would be very easy to learn to recognize. I just think it has a really cool look.

Molly 8:00

It's really striking.

Matthew Amster-Burton 8:01

Yeah, but people like in Hong Kong English, the word the word congee still seems to be really, really common. As I mentioned, in Japanese, it's Oh Kiu. And it's, it's a it's a dish that I've had in Japan, like, it's hard to say like in Japanese cooking, like where the line is between ocadu and, and rice dish is where you kind of like stir some rice into like the dregs of a hot pot until the rice kind of dissolves, which is so good. So that's that's called zosi or ogtr depending on the texture

Molly 8:32

cool. So you know, at its most basic, this dish is a rice porridge that is typically made from leftover rice.

Matthew Amster-Burton 8:41

Yeah, can definitely be made with uncooked rice and sometimes it is but leftover rice is most common I think.

Molly 8:46

And it's it's typically flavored with with salty or otherwise highly seasoned ingredients because, you know, rice itself, Will God it lends itself to strong seasonings.

Matthew Amster-Burton 8:58

Yeah, and like, it doesn't have to be seasoned that way. Just like you know, typically, there'll be like some salted nuts or, or scallions or soy sauce or like little bits of seasoned meat or mushrooms

Molly 9:10

and it's common throughout East Asia. I mean, I really think of it in Chinese cooking and in Korean cooking, but it's it's common throughout East Asia, right?

Matthew Amster-Burton 9:19

Yeah, no, like I I learned like, you know, a friend of the show pi Lin has has a Thai kanji recipe that like I sort of knew that it was eaten in Thailand but didn't really hadn't haven't had the Thai version but like you know, off you know, off it'll be flavored with fish sauce, of course,

Molly 9:34

is there sort of like so, you know, I'm thinking of it among other leg food for ailing people, right? I'm thinking of like, you know, like chicken noodle soup. Is there like a basic flavoring combo that like is sort of the baseline like for congee.

Matthew Amster-Burton 9:53

I don't know the answer like, usually Yeah, let's ask our guests like I think it is usually made with stock although it can be made with water. I keep saying over and over, like, you know, we can be made this way or can be made this way. Like it's it's a very basic preparation that can go like a wide variety of different directions including, like how much water to rice you use is like kind of the most fundamental decision about how you make coffee.

Molly 10:16

Okay, I imagine it affects everything in terms of like texture, and I don't know, maybe it affects flavor, too. I have no idea.

Matthew Amster-Burton 10:23

Yeah, like, I think I feel like the most classic Cantonese version has like a little season ground pork. And since century egg or 1000 year old egg. Have you had 1000 year old eggs? I haven't. Oh, they're really good. They're what I wish a hard boiled egg always tasted like

Molly 10:42

remind me about preparation.

Matthew Amster-Burton 10:44

So they're, like, preserved in like an alkaline medium until until the interior firms up and turns kind of black. Uh huh. And so they're, they're a dish that, you know, when you when you see it for the first time, you're like, Oh, this is this is gonna be very challenging if I didn't grow up with it, but actually, it's not at all it's just, it's just they have they have an unusual look as far as eggs go. And but the flavor is very, you know, comforting and soft.

Molly 11:14

What is the flavor? Like, is it does it get much flavor from the alkaline solution that it's in? Or

Matthew Amster-Burton 11:20

is it just it tastes like it doesn't have like a flavor that's really like separate from egg it's, it's really about like, you know, eating eating an egg but, but with a special like, very smooth texture.

Molly 11:34

Hmm. Okay. All right. Um, so,

Matthew Amster-Burton 11:37

you know, you know what, it's sort of like it's sort of like a like a suvi to egg

Molly 11:42

I was gonna ask if it was that same kind of like whatever it is, that happens when the the proteins in the white very slowly solidify. Yeah, making that like really silky texture.

Matthew Amster-Burton 11:55

So that's great with coffee.

Molly 11:56

And I can imagine how good that would be in this like piping hot porridge. And I imagine that congee like oatmeal probably stays hot for any terney Hmm,

Matthew Amster-Burton 12:06

yes, I made some of the other day. And I'm like, okay, like I know every time I've had this in the past at bird by mouth audit, but now I'm like making it at home I can let it sit I'm not gonna burn my mouth. I let it sit as long as I could stand before digging in and still I've still burned my mouth. It was super hot. I think I think I read what once read a Harold McGee article or like chapter for a book about like, why some things take so long to cool down and has to do with like, you know, the flow flow of heat within the medium getting interrupted by like, chunky things.

Molly 12:39

That was such a great explanation. That's Yeah, that's

Matthew Amster-Burton 12:41

it. I'm just reading from his private chapter. I cleared it right up as verbatim from Harold McGee, like the great explainer of food side said yeah, I don't know. There's like two chunky shit in there something. Why are you asking me this?

Molly 12:54

Okay. All right. Let's Let's wait for Hetty.

Matthew Amster-Burton 13:00

We are joined by Hetty McKinnon, who is the author of community, the editor of peddler, co host of the house specials podcast, and also author of the new book to Asia with love. That's why we wanted to have her on to talk about congee. This week. Hetty McKinnon. Welcome to spilled milk.

Hetty McKinnon 13:17

Thank you What a pleasure to be here. And I'm so excited to talk about congee

Molly 13:22

I have one thing I want to say about to Asia with love. Edie? I love that, that it's all film photography in that book, right? It's 100% film. Oh my gosh, it's it's so beautiful. And I loved what you wrote about choosing to do film photography, and your dad's connection to film photography. And anyway, I just wanted to say I think it creates such a special field to the book that is so perfect for the whole vibe of what the book is doing. And I just hope everybody will go out and pick up a copy.

Matthew Amster-Burton 13:54

Absolutely. I did not know that about film photography. But I noticed the photos were beautiful.

Hetty McKinnon 13:59

Thank you. Thank you. Yeah, I really did want to create something that was fully respectful of where I'm from, and my culture, and I've never done I've done some food photography for peddler, the magazine, but in a commercial book, I thought no way of publishers going to agree to this. But we have this great relationship and they just said Go for it, or we trust you to do it. So it felt like an experiment. And I did backup everything with digital but I ended up only using film

Molly 14:30

it really I mean as though you know your voice and the subject matter didn't already set it apart. I feel like the photography just makes it so warm. I just had to say I really love that.

Hetty McKinnon 14:41

Thank you.

Matthew Amster-Burton 14:43

The thing I noticed about the book, and I hope this is a nice thing to say about a vegetarian cookbook. I got about halfway through the book and like maybe more and suddenly realize, wait a minute, is this a vegetarian cookbook, like I didn't even notice that like, just like every everything was just incredible. appeal a guy like, Oh, I'm gonna cook this one, I'm gonna cook this one, I'm gonna cook this one.

Hetty McKinnon 15:04

Absolutely. And I've always tried to do my books like that, like ever. Even since the beginning like with community, I'd always ask my publishers, please don't put this in the vegetarian category, I don't want it on the vegetarian shelf. Because my food is about inclusiveness, like that is kind of the foundations of all my work and food is connecting people bringing people together, the fact that it doesn't have made is kind of just a moot point. Because I'm really trying to show people what they're getting out of this food, rather than what they're losing. And I feel like sometimes the vegetarian tag just tells people, you're actually going to miss out on something. Exactly. very beginning.

Molly 15:46

God, that's, that's very true. Well, I think it's perfect than that. We're talking about congee. Well, for one thing, we're really happy to be talking with you about congee. Because Matthew and I, this is something that we both really want to learn more about. And also, it's something that, you know, I think when both of us have eaten congee, it's been with meat. So I'm really curious to learn more about it sort of outside of that context. Yeah. Okay, so

Hetty McKinnon 16:13

this is a dish, I mean, so fun, because growing up, it was really one of the staple dishes that we ate, like my mom would be, I've really vivid memories of her like, when I was a little bit older, we'd be sitting on the couch, and you know, in the mornings would finish our breakfast or whatever. And she just looked over to me, I want congee, I want jook today. So she would like rush into the kitchen and start getting everything together. So it's just such a, it's just a staple in our house. So it's kind of strange to me that it's now quite a trendy meal, like you're all love to talk about candy and all the ways of eating it. And to us, I could never have imagined as a 16 year old that, you know, many decades later, I would be writing a joke recipe and a joke recipe that's very different to the way my mother cooked it. And then it would be such a trendy recipe that and it's been adapted like a million times like that. Yeah, kind of wild to me to think about that. But I'll tell you a funny story, because a lot of people talk about kanji in the context that, oh, it's the dish my mum made when I was sick, or it's what I wanted to eat to feel better when I couldn't digest anything. But in our family, it was really different. It was not a meal that was served when you were ill or sick. It was just something to satisfy a craving really. And so, to me, I don't have those memories of it as as something I only when I was feeling poorly. It was a meal. That was always a very strange story I tell about this dish. My mum made joke when it was really hot. Okay, all right. So my mom, really kind of typical, you know, Asian Chinese mother, who believes in like a lot of Eastern medicine and a lot about, you know, the yin and yang and balancing temperatures in the body. And so her belief, her very strong belief is that when it was really hot, the way to cool yourself down is to have a really hot meal or because that way your body can kind of sweat out all the heat that's in your body. So we ate a lot of candy when it was really hot on a hot summer days.

Matthew Amster-Burton 18:27

I'm glad you mentioned that cuz we were in Bali and I were talking about how like one of the things we think of when we when we think about our memories of eating congee is that it is one of the hottest dishes not in terms of Chile, but in terms of temperature.

Unknown Speaker 18:39

They like it

Matthew Amster-Burton 18:41

down like blow on it and wait and you're gonna burn your mouth anyway.

Hetty McKinnon 18:46

Yeah, absolutely. So yeah, on a hot summer day, someone's coming up, you know, just make some coffee.

Molly 18:53

So do you. So you live in New York, right? I

Hetty McKinnon 18:56

live in New York now? Yes. Do

Molly 18:57

you still make congee when it's hot outside?

Hetty McKinnon 19:01

I kind of do. Yeah. And it's kind of one of those things that you know, like, they say, you know, you turn into your mother and you never want to admit that at some point in your life. And then at some point you just got you just kind of get into it go I have turned into my mother. I do believe all these years. That she would say and they're not where they are grounded in in, you know, rituals and, you know, ancient traditions. But as a kid growing up in Australia, like I just wanted to be Australian. So everything she did was kind of weird to me. But you know, her country was meat. I ate meat until I was about 19 and before that I had tried almost every meat under the sun. You know, we grew up with, you know, a balanced diet but you know, always like with meat in things balanced with vegetables. But when I decided to go vegetarian, she started making different versions of things that she cooked through. about her life. So the job was one thing. There's many different versions of congee, too. There's not just one, the staple one that we would eat maybe like at breakfast time or during the day. It's not something we'd have dinner. So it's more like a daytime dish. You know, that'd be very flavorsome. And we didn't top it with a lot of things like I've done in this book, we will just be like cilantro and Maggi seasoning. That was kind of the staple. But there were other versions of kanji, like so for during celebrations like Chinese New Year or birthdays. When we ate a lot of savory food, she would make what she would call back joke, which is a white congee. And it would be completely flavorless. So black, and no salt, I would still put Maggi in it, but she would kind of get mad at us because it's like that is meant to be the antidote to the all the big savory flavors that you're eating. Almost like a palate cleanser.

Molly 20:55

So would she she'd cook it in water as opposed to stock?

Hetty McKinnon 20:59

Yeah, just Yeah. Wow.

Matthew Amster-Burton 21:01

So it would be sort of serving the same function as steamed rice

Hetty McKinnon 21:04

kind of Yeah, yes. And like Joe, typically those meals would not there wouldn't be rice involved in those meals, though, we would have she would always make rice but like not all of us would eat it because it would be typically a noodle you know, kind of a noodle noodle feast in that on the table, dumplings and other kind of steamed glutinous savory type dumplings, and then there would be the the white congee has kind of a balance to all of that. So there are very many different versions of it. And I have to say I've never really developed a really traditional congee recipe

Matthew Amster-Burton 21:43


Hetty McKinnon 21:43

so today I do two versions. One is really untraditional is made with brown rice and some quinoa. I laugh because it's kind of like it's, I feel like it's silly like when in context of like how the congee I grew up eating. But that's one version. It's brown rice. It kind of cooks in the same amount of time, like people have this perception of brown rice taking a really long time to cook, but it really doesn't.

Molly 22:12

I've always wondered when I see that written in cookbooks, I always feel like it's a vestige of like 1970s vegetarianism. I've never had brown rice take that long to cook, or anything that felt notable, anyway. Yeah,

Hetty McKinnon 22:26

yeah. And I also, one thing that I often do is I cook white and brown rice together. And once I put it on Instagram, and people eat when people went crazy, they were like, this is not possible. You know, they take two different times difficult to use pre soak your brown rice and like, I don't do anything different. I just put them literally in the pot together, what you know, rinse the rice and cook it exactly the same, same amount of water. And somehow it works. I can't explain the science behind it, but it works. Anyway, back to the brown rice candy. Yeah, that one, I will do brown rice and key Noir. And I put lots of ginger, dried shitaki mushrooms. And my mom always used black eyed peas in her I noticed

Matthew Amster-Burton 23:11

that in the book.

Hetty McKinnon 23:13

She was put that in. And it was one of those ingredients that she had this kind of pantry and had all her medicinal Chinese ingredients because we had like a medicinal like tongs soup every night before dinner. And then I always remembered very vividly this kind of jar of Black Eyed Peas. And she would put that in her congee to add a kind of sweetness to it. So now it's something I really want in any country I make is I want that black IP. That's a really kind of memorable aroma to me, like when I when I cook black IPA that really does remind me of my mom's kitchen. So I put that in there. And then you know, not much else. I mean, sometimes I will use stock. Sometimes I'll just use water. Certain Asian cultures cook more with stock. In the end like a broth, like a flavored broth. Often I'll just use water. And so that's one version and then the one in the book is actually a left over rice, congee. Because concrete does take two hours to cook like a good amount of time

Molly 24:17

is that whether you use raw rice or leftover rice, is it about the same?

Hetty McKinnon 24:22

No. So raw rice is traditionally what's used a very small amount of raw raw rice to a lot of liquid. And it will take about two hours to really break down. Okay, and it's also different consistencies. Some people like the kanji really thick, almost like a bowl of rice, it's just got a little bit of liquid in it. We traditionally ate one that was more kind of liquidity so it would be cooked for a good two hours but the one in the book is made with leftover rice and more rice, two cups of rice of leftover rice. Right, you've gotten a fridge, and it cooks in about half an hour. So for me, it's just a little bit more friendly to, you know, a modern life where you're just got a lot on, and it's also one of those ways to use up leftover rice. You know? Yeah,

Matthew Amster-Burton 25:16

that makes sense. Yeah, I'm glad you mentioned that like, like, it's it's a long cooked dish, because what it reminded me of is is polenta and how like, you know, polenta, both polenta and congee go through a phase where like, you could eat it at this point, but it hasn't reached its potential yet. Yes. It's sort of like like an overcooked grain dish that then is going to, like, magically transform in like another 30 or 60 minutes of cooking into something perfect. That's its own thing.

Hetty McKinnon 25:43

Exactly. Exactly. And, you know, I think patience is one of those things we don't have a lot of In the Kitchen nowadays, you know, because everything is like 30 minutes, five ingredients, 30 minutes. And I kind of love I mean, even though I did do a leftover rice, one in the book, because I was like, you know, trying to show people all the different versions. I think that there is like real joy in really putting time in something and it's a really uncomplicated dish. You just have to kind of trust time and your stove and let let it do its thing. So that's like the joy in in a dish like this. And also like lots of slow cooking too, isn't it? Yeah,

Matthew Amster-Burton 26:25


Molly 26:26

I love the look of your everyday oil recipe in the book. And I feel like that is exactly the kind of thing that I want on congee is that sort of the oil that you are the condiment? What condiment Do you tend to reach for with congee

Hetty McKinnon 26:38

I do put that out unconsciously and when I I developed the everything what I now call everything oil, but in the years ago, when I first developed that recipe, it was just the chili oil to me, though it's based on it's rooted in like a Sichuan chili oil with a lot of spices in there. So there's like cinnamon, there's star nice, which is a really evocative smell for me, because it's just something my mom used a lot in all her cooking. And there's like a lot of aromatic so it's just full of spice, but then there's a lot of aroma in there too, that other things. So I didn't really develop this recipe to eat with pongee even though I didn't eat it growing up with kanji, we just ate it very plain. But now with some of the toppings that I've got, particularly in the book, they're kind of more modern approach to kanji things that like kind of kanji but like, you know, made for my lifestyle.

Matthew Amster-Burton 27:36

There's this one with kale chips. Oh, that sounds really good. It's

Hetty McKinnon 27:40

wildly fantastic because you've got this kind of kind of mellow it's a mellow bass congee and then you've got this kind of the texture of that crunchy kale and then the chili oil on top of that and it's just, it's just perfect and it's so good and comforting. But then I've got another one that's got you know, mushrooms that have been paired fried with five spice powder and tahini. And that is certainly not traditional. There's a lot of tahini in this book, but it's it doesn't deviate that far from tradition. Because there's you know, we we eat a lot of Chinese sesame paste, which is, it's a slightly different flavor. It's more intense. It's made from roasted sesame seeds, but it's hard to get and I'm going to completely just say it's really hard to get even in my neighborhood of I try and go out and find it. I can't find it. So I have to go to a specialty store. So with this book, I tried to really democratize some of the ingredients and just go well tahini is going to give you a pretty good result not completely authentic, or traditional, but you're going to get that flavor. So kanji with tahini is quite good.

Matthew Amster-Burton 28:51

It sounds good. I want to ask about the what word we should be using to talk about this dish because when I when I was researching, like I learned that congee is sort of an outsider word for it and you call it a joke in the book.

Hetty McKinnon 29:04


Matthew Amster-Burton 29:05

Do you think that you know people when talking about this dish? Should should use a more a more localized term? It does congee feel okay, do you? What do you think?

Hetty McKinnon 29:14

So congee I feel like is an overarching word, or the different I don't know if this is true, by the way, this is just how I perceive it. Yeah, so I feel like there's many different versions of this dish across Asian countries. I know that India has a version of a T shirt I should have wanted actually have a T shirt with all the different congee from all the different Asian countries. I can't believe I didn't wear it today. But in you know, in India, it's called cat congee like K and J. I believe that could be the wrong spelling. In Korean it's also called joke, but they often spell it j UK. I've always just used j you know, joke like j double okay. That's how we say it in Cantonese. So there's many different iterations of it across Asia. So I'm just wondering where the kanji is used because it just is like this kind of overarching umbrella term,

a term for all the different versions. I don't know if I'm the right person asked whether that's correct or not. It's funny because in my the Australian version of this book, it's called congee. But in the US version, I asked it to be changed to joke because I feel like different countries are more advanced in the way certain foods are represented. And I really did feel like in America, when you say job, people really know what you're talking about.

Matthew Amster-Burton 30:39

I think I think that's true. That's true in New York. It's true in every part of America.

Hetty McKinnon 30:45

Well, that's, that's, let's try and get it that

Molly 30:49

step in the right direction.

Matthew Amster-Burton 30:51


Hetty McKinnon 30:51

What do you guys think, though? About the whole congee versus jook? versus congee?

Matthew Amster-Burton 30:57

I don't know. I feel like it's something I'm just starting to learn about, like, as far as I can tell, like, like linguists seem to agree that the word originated in Tom meal and, and made it to East Asia via the Portuguese. Ah, yeah. And so so it's sort of, it's sort of like a mix of like, you know, this this is this is a word that is used in, in South Asia. But it's not a word that is that's native to East Asian languages. And like, so it feels, it feels like sort of a, like middle ground. Like, I was not totally sure going to this episode, like, is this kind of an okay thing to call this dish? Or is it like a very sort of like outside return, but it sounds like, it's kind of okay. Yeah, I'm

Hetty McKinnon 31:37

not always like that. Off with what the correct I just kind of like, what I know.

Matthew Amster-Burton 31:45

Yeah, of course,

Hetty McKinnon 31:46

people have asked me this before, but I've never know what the right answer is.

Molly 31:50

Eddie, do you have any tips for improvising flavor combinations for jook? Do you like for instance, you know, kale chips would be crunchy. D Are you looking for different textures, as well as flavors?

Hetty McKinnon 32:06

I think it's a real personal journey job. I mean, I do think traditionally, it's Herbes on herds on the top with, you know, some sort of not even always soy sauce, but you know, I really love Maggi on Maggi. And it's something that I kind of was ashamed of, for a lot of my life, because they are these ingredients where you just got, I don't think that's acceptable to put Maggi on things. And then I got to the point where I was like, I'm not gonna be ashamed of these things that I love, you know, like bullion cubes that my mom like a lot of immigrant immigrant cooks, cook with really basic ingredients that are really flavoursome. And, you know, like bone broth. She just made bone broth without thinking that this was an indulgent thing, right. But she also use bullion cubes and chicken bullion cubes, and, you know, lots of magic products. And I don't know, I kind of feel like part of my journey in life, like being a daughter of Chinese immigrants and growing up in a western world kind of felt like I tried to mute a lot of those aspects of my life. And I didn't really want to tell people the things that I was really eating at home. And now I'm just like, Maggi is like, it's such an amazing product that is used in a lot of countries. I think it actually originated in Switzerland. I was

Molly 33:25

gonna say I first heard about it in Germany. Yes, that was the first time I ever encountered it.

Hetty McKinnon 33:30

Yeah, and there's different variations of it across the world, depending on you know, the tastes of wherever they're from, and some are more garlicky, some are more spicy. But anyway, Maggi are really associated with congee a lot. But in terms of like changing, like, for me, I really try to tailor it to my tastes, hence the thing like kale chips on the top, hence the I also have a recipe in there for a carrot salad that goes on the top. So it's Yeah, it's not trick people are probably if you if you don't if you hear about this kind of not in the context of reading the rest of the book, I'm sure people will say oh my god, what is she doing like she's like crazy and just bastardizing his whole dish. But that one is one I eat a lot because I love the the textural element of it like the freshness on the top, which is just going a little bit further than the Herbes, which is more traditional, right? But the textual element is really lovely, but he could almost do kind of anything. I really like the like some sort of crunch and freshness for the top. Yeah, I'm quite a rogue cook sometimes and you know, I had anything really like sometimes I have done like I've dropped an egg into it as soon as it's ready, like the egg through it. My mom had savory oats for breakfast every morning because That is her like really super quick way of getting a meal that's kind of like congee by, she hasn't had the time to make it. And she's like in her 70s and kind of on her own now, so she'll have savory oats for breakfast almost every morning. And she breaks an egg through it for extra protein. So I tend to do that sometimes, too. There's a lot of rule breaking in my cooking. But I think so much now, so much of like the narrative and food is about authenticity. But what we forget is the people who actually, you know, like my, I'm getting all my authenticity from my mom, but she breaks the same rules. Yeah, like she's also doing things that have evolved the recipes that she cooked for us growing up, so I kind of get my license to do it. Yeah,

I love that.

Matthew Amster-Burton 35:50

I've definitely had an egg stirred through in in Japan like in in Swedish. Lunch is not not exactly the same as congee because the rice isn't quite as fall apart, but very similar and like usually an egg will be stirred through. It's very good.

Hetty McKinnon 36:04

Ah, that sounds fantastic. You know what I wanted to tell you about this one other type of kanji that was my children's first food. It's a steamed pongee my mom calls it j which kind of translates to let little concrete like little okay. So it's one that's steamed. So she she will have like chicken, which also she'll flavor the chicken and then she'll just put it through the raw rice. And then there's a little container which I have here with me. It's like a little clay pot. And it's stained for I don't know how long I tried to make it recently just with, we should talk you mushrooms because I had a craving for it. And so the rice breaks down. But it's not like it's not soupy inconsistency. It's like a steamed rice, but slightly, almost like pudding like so.

Matthew Amster-Burton 36:57

I've never had

Hetty McKinnon 36:57

this really cool. And she only ever made it for when my kids were little. And I definitely remember eating it when I was young. Have you written up the recipe Anyway, I've never done if you've never done it, maybe maybe in the future. But I'll try to get the consistency of it right. Just a few weeks ago when I had a craving for and it wasn't perfect. I need to ask her again the exact because I used to make it when my kids were young. But that's a really kind of fun, different version of what we do call congee. But it's not what anyone would recognize as congee. Excellent.

Matthew Amster-Burton 37:33

Well, Hetty McKinnon thank you so much for being on spilled milk and teaching us so much. This was really fun.

Molly 37:38

Thank you so much.

Hetty McKinnon 37:39

Thanks for having me, guys.

Matthew Amster-Burton 37:47

Wow, I feel like I learned a lot.

Molly 37:50

Oh, she was fantastic. I would like to listen to her talk about every dish in her book at that length.

Matthew Amster-Burton 37:57

Yeah. Well, I mean, she has her own podcast, which we'll link to in the show notes. Say yes.

Molly 38:01

House specials?

Matthew Amster-Burton 38:03

Yes. All right. Do we have anything else about about congee? Or jook or Ohio to talk about?

Molly 38:08

I don't think I do. I mean, except that now I'm like,

Matthew Amster-Burton 38:13

I want to experiment more like this is this is something that I'm gonna like make in in like variations over over the next few weeks. And I don't care if it's hot out.

Molly 38:22

I'm really curious to try her. I think I'm going to try her recipe for leftover rice joke. And then I think I will try like a full on you know, cooking from the raw rice yesterday. And see I'm curious about how different they might be or maybe not Anyway, I'm excited.

Matthew Amster-Burton 38:41

Yeah, I think I didn't realize like, you know, the the New York food world really like is months or years ahead of us. And like I don't think I had any sense that that this was like a trendy food in the US. Like I knew that there was a there was like a briefly a congee restaurant that started as a pop up in Seattle. Kraken Congee.

Molly 39:03

God Yes. Yeah, I

Matthew Amster-Burton 39:04

think I closed I don't know if the if it closed like during COVID or just before but

Molly 39:10

I remember it was in Pioneer Square, right? There was often a line out Yeah. And at lunchtime, I

Matthew Amster-Burton 39:16

didn't realize it was gone bomber. Okay, so possibly, this is something all of our listeners, whether whether they're of East Asian descent or not have have been cooking all along, and they should be telling us about it.

Molly 39:26

Yeah, pretty much. In this case. Maybe they're just they're not letting us have any like, you know,

Matthew Amster-Burton 39:33

exactly. It's about time we get a taste we get we don't get a taste of our own medicine.

Molly 39:38

Okay. All right, Matthew. Let's move into the old segments.

Matthew Amster-Burton 39:41

All right. Okay, I got some last minute spilled mail that that I wanted to share.

From listener Rochelle, listening to Episode 143 jarred spaghetti sauce. You guys discussed how scary jarred out alfredo sauces. And I fully agree. It freaks me out. So that being said, Could you guys do an episode on it?

Molly 40:06

Wait on jarred Alfredo sauce? Yes.

Matthew Amster-Burton 40:08

Oh, ah,

Molly 40:11

I can't believe she's done this to us. This is like

Matthew Amster-Burton 40:15

it's, it's almost my fault for reading the letter, but she's kind

Molly 40:20

of she's thrown down. We've been served.

Matthew Amster-Burton 40:23

Yeah, we've been served a jar of sauce. And now

Molly 40:27

Now we have to eat it.

Matthew Amster-Burton 40:28

I think yeah, I think we have to do it. Because like, I don't know if I've ever had jarred Alfredo sauce. It seems like inherently a bad idea. But what if it's good.

Molly 40:38

If I've had it, it would have been in like an institutional setting like my high school cafeteria, or my college cafeteria, that kind of thing. And all of garden. Yeah, yeah. Anyway, okay. Listen to Rochelle. All right,

Matthew Amster-Burton 40:51

we'll do it. This doesn't mean that anybody can write in with any idea. No, don't have it do get in touch with I don't abuse

Molly 40:59

the privilege. Exactly. Matthew, what was the name of my quilting segment?

Matthew Amster-Burton 41:05

Oh, it was calling it quilts.

Molly 41:12

Is it back so I'm not making a quilt right now. However. Hold on. I did just finish my my largest knitting project ever, which was kind of a knitted quilt. I made a log cabin. So a log cabin pattern is like a classic, you know, historical quilt pattern. Can you picture it?

Matthew Amster-Burton 41:36

No, I'm gonna Google it.

Molly 41:39

Okay, well, anyway,

Matthew Amster-Burton 41:40

the yarn can now

Molly 41:43

see the yarn company, purl Soho, which also, you know, puts a bunch of patterns out into the world, purl Soho released a pattern for like a log cabin quilt. So basically, you you know, you make the log cabin pattern using panels of knitting. Okay, anyway, I tried it not using Perl. So hos yarn, because that was expensive. But anyway, I just kind of winged it using approximately their pattern and made a like throw blanket. It took me about two months. And that was like, I pretty much only worked on it when we were watching a show on on Netflix or whatever. And it's the biggest and most successful knitting project I've

Matthew Amster-Burton 42:28

done to date. How big is is like, like a football field size?

Molly 42:32

Yeah, yeah. Now like a throw blanket. Okay, you know, I've said I really hate following patterns. Well, I didn't measure it. I really kind of winged it with the pattern. So I really don't know how big this thing is.

Matthew Amster-Burton 42:44

But okay, but and there's no way to find out and

Molly 42:46

there's no find out. It's it's definitely not just sitting folded up on my sofa right now. No. Okay. Anyway, I'm calling it quits. What?

Matthew Amster-Burton 42:56

Are there any other segments that are that are going to rise from the dead? Animal Crossing? playing any animal crossing?

Molly 43:02

Nope, not lately. No.

Matthew Amster-Burton 43:04

I have it. I have a new segment. It's called What am I sitting on? Oh, did you get a cozy life? comfy life?

Molly 43:10

Oh, comfy life. Right? Yeah, life.

Matthew Amster-Burton 43:12

How is that the same one you got?

Unknown Speaker 43:13

Yes. Life?

Matthew Amster-Burton 43:15

Yes. I knew you had gotten like the the horseshoe shaped but proceed Coach buttpad. And I figured probably the one I ordered was the same one you got since it seemed to be the most popular right? But yeah, I'm living that comfy life. How is it? It's wonder I'm sitting on it right now. And I've never been happier.

Molly 43:31

I feel like it raises me up just the right amount for using my computer at my dining table. Yeah. And it also kind of positions my back better.

Matthew Amster-Burton 43:41

Yeah, I'm loving it. This is not sponsored content. It's not sponsored content. I put like a little cut out in front at first and then I read the instructions and learned that that's supposed to go in back and it was much more comfortable after I started using it the right way.

Molly 43:53

Oh my god, I'm using it the wrong way. Matthew. I've been using it the wrong way all the time. Oh, wait a minute. The horseshoe faces. The horseshoe opens behind me. The horseshoe

Matthew Amster-Burton 44:02

opens behind you. So that's like, like a little cutout for your tailbone sort of

Molly 44:07


Matthew Amster-Burton 44:08

Oh my god, it doesn't seem like it should be that way.

Molly 44:11

This is amazing. Okay, all right. I'm going to switch it around.

Matthew Amster-Burton 44:14

Yeah, I mean, of course, it's your it's your butt. buttpad you can use it any way you want. Like no one. No one from the comfy life corporation is going to come and inspect.

Molly 44:23

Okay. Hey, do you have a cute animal I should know about?

Matthew Amster-Burton 44:26

I do.

This was suggested by Birkbeck cat on Reddit and it's Fiona the baby Hippo and Fiona the baby Hippo lives at the Cincinnati Zoo.

Molly 44:40

Oh my god. Here she comes. She's celebrating her fourth birthday everybody and she is about to eat a cake that appears to be made of gelatin and fruit. Yeah, with what looks like eucalyptus leaves around it. Oh

Matthew Amster-Burton 44:56

yeah, there's a lot of there's a lot of videos of Fiona the baby Hippo but I I chose this one because like, Who doesn't want to be invited to a hippos birthday?

Molly 45:04

Oh my god, I love her. Her skin is really beautiful. I bet she knows shiny

Matthew Amster-Burton 45:10

and and there's there's gonna be there's gonna be a guest star coming on in a minute. Really?

Molly 45:14

Oh god she is. It looks like she's kind of gnawing on the pedestal that this cake is on.

Matthew Amster-Burton 45:20

Yeah, I mean like my cat will non on like a cardboard box. A chair lag.

Molly 45:26

Here comes another one who yes

Matthew Amster-Burton 45:28

this Do you know who this is? No, but it's like a bigger hippo. So maybe it's like a like a parent parental Hippo unit. Oh my god. I

Molly 45:34

love her big ol big ol lips. which seemed kind of like stiff.

Matthew Amster-Burton 45:40

Yeah. You know, like, I like Fiona because it seems like Fiona could literally crush you with love.

Molly 45:45

Literally. I mean, aren't hippos are like, kind of vicious.

Matthew Amster-Burton 45:49

Yeah. I mean, I think they're very like, like, protective. They, you know, they, they act in self defense. I okay. Okay. as as as a HIPAA public defender. That's my take.

Molly 46:01

Hold on. I'm looking at the comments for Fiona's fourth birthday. Okay, YouTube. Oh, here's leaf 396. Who says I remember when she learned how to swim.

Matthew Amster-Burton 46:12

Oh, we should find that video. Okay, next week, the theater the baby Hippo learns how to swim. Ah,

Molly 46:18

this is delightful. Ah, okay. All right. Thanks, everybody. Thanks, Matthew. Okay, now, but wow, stuff we're into this week.

Alright, Matthew, I can't remember. Have you read the book The novel Pachinko? I haven't.

Matthew Amster-Burton 46:39

Okay, many, many people close to me have read it. Great.

Molly 46:42

It is by minjin Lee, and I have read it. And anyway, she has an article that came out in the New York Times in about a month ago, in early April. It's an essay The title is a lifetime of reading taught minjin Lee how to write about her immigrant world. And I was drawn to read this not only because I loved Pachinko, but I also just I love reading people writing about the books that have influenced them, specifically writers writing about the books that have influenced them. And anyway, so this is a really wonderful and quite moving article, in large part about her uncle john and, like the way in which going to the library basically kind of pulled her whole family up. Okay. It was her uncle john, who sponsored her family minjin Lee's family to immigrate from South Korea. And anyway, the whole essay is kind of a love note to education and into reading really into the like, Okay.

Matthew Amster-Burton 47:50

I'm against those things, but maybe this will change my mind. Yeah.

Molly 47:53

Anyway, it's really great. Go check it out.

Matthew Amster-Burton 47:56

Alright, we'll link to it in the show notes.

Molly 47:57

I just put her first book on hold at the library so I'm excited to read more of her All right, get

Matthew Amster-Burton 48:03

out my now but wow is a one of those NPR Tiny Desk concerts. Ah, yeah, this is a Tiny Desk at home of course. And it is with the band steady holiday, which is a product of a singer songwriter named Dre bubinski, which is one of the best names you can say tastic name and this is one of the best musical performances I've watched in a long time. Hello. I had not been familiar with her. I think YouTube maybe just recommended like, you know, you seem to like indie rock, you'll like this. The songwriting is fantastic. The performance is funny, she keeps adding like, you know, little little fun twists to the performance and and allows herself to like laugh, you know, at her own jokes while singing the songs which I mean, I would never laugh at my own jokes, but it's nice when other people do it.

Molly 48:51

Yeah, never laugh at your own jokes.

Matthew Amster-Burton 48:52

I am I am now like obsessed with this record. She has a record called take the corners gently. Every song on it is a fucking banger. I just love songwriting more than anything else in the world and she is so good at it. So check off steady holiday, Tiny Desk and and her new album. Take the corners gently. Oh,

Molly 49:12

this is awesome. Okay, well you can find us where you already found us

Matthew Amster-Burton 49:17

Our producer is Abby circuit Ella who really has her work cut out for this week.

Molly 49:21

Sorry Abby. And you can I don't know jump on the all spilled milk read it and and talk to us and to other people.

Matthew Amster-Burton 49:31

It's reddit.com slash are slash everything spilled milk. You can also jump on a comfy life brand. But had I recommend that

Molly 49:39

Hmm, yeah. Thank you for listening to spilled milk. The show that doesn't burn your mouth, but it does burn your ears. I'm Molly weissenberg.

Matthew Amster-Burton 49:49

And I'm Matthew Amster-Burton.

Molly 49:58

I'm Molly

Matthew Amster-Burton 50:01

I mean, we have cameras on you could see that I was taking a drink of water